Alight: Fire that breathes life back into nature

July 12th, 2023

Fire program manager Dr Sam Lloyd shares why fire management and healthy fire is so important to Australia's fire-prone landscape, and why she was inspired to write her children's book, Alight.
A copy of the picture book Alight, propped up in scrublands with a burnt treetrunk behind it and a charred stick in the foreground.

Alight is a gentle exploration of the importance of healthy fire in Australia’s bush. Photo: Sam Lloyd, Bauple State Forest fire experimental plot.


Sam Lloyd in a garden, smiling and holding a copy of the picture book 'Alight'. The cover shows a large eucalyptus tree in grasslands, with smoke rising in the distance.

Fire ecologist Dr Sam Lloyd has written her first book, Alight: A Story of Fire and Nature.

For many Australians, the thought of fires burning bushland brings to mind the destruction and danger of catastrophic unplanned bushfires. However, fire is a natural part of the Australian bush, and there is another side to this story.

Alight: A Story of Fire and Nature provides a gentle exploration of the importance of healthy fire to Australia’s bush. It follows the native animals and plants during a planned fire, their journeys as they survive the challenges the fire brings, and how the bush and its inhabitants flourish after the fire.

We asked author Sam Lloyd, scientist and fire ecologist, why she was inspired to tell the story of Alight – a story about fire that breathes life back into nature.


What does a fire ecologist do?

Fire is a natural and important part of Australia’s environment. A fire ecologist is someone who studies the relationship between fire and the bush. In particular, fire ecologists often focus on how plants, animals, fungi and soil live with, and respond to fire. Fire ecologists can work in a variety of roles including research, education, communication, planning and management.

I work in a fire management and biodiversity program in south-east Queensland and I love it. The most important work I do is to share fire science, build capacity, and foster collaboration between fire sector stakeholders including First Nations groups, emergency service agencies, natural resource management bodies, universities, utility providers, and local and state government. Fire does not stop at a fence line or border and so we must work together to help mitigate the risk of wildfire and improve fire management and biodiversity outcomes.

Why is fire management important?

Effective fire management is essential for the health and safety of our communities and the environment. Climate science has shown us that the number of high-risk fire weather days is increasing with climate change. So, we need to work together to better understand and implement fire management planning across our landscape.

Rangers, land managers and fire officers sometimes light fire in the bush on purpose, and this is called planned fire. Planned fires are often smaller and cooler, and leave unburnt green patches throughout the bush, helping to preserve the plants in that area and provide shelter for animals. Unplanned wildfire tends to be hotter, larger and more destructive, leaving fewer or no unburnt patches in a given area.

We use planned fire to help maintain healthy ecosystems and reduce the risk of dangerous unplanned fire, and it may also be done for cultural reasons. Planned fire can help protect the places where we live, play and work, as well as important natural, cultural and historical sites. However, all fire is dangerous and only people with the right training, experience and required permission should light a fire.

A page spread showing a bushland scene. On the left page is a large Eucalypt tree with fire spreading through the grass towards it. On the right page are two uniformed fire personnel with a drip torch walking through long grass. The text reads: 'The smoke drifted on the breeze, but Old Eucalypt was not worried. People were working together and listening to the bush. When the bush was ready, the people carefully lit the fire.'

Alight tells the story of a planned fire that helps bring new life to the bush. Illustration: Samantha Metcalfe, Alight.


What is the role of Indigenous knowledge in fire management?

Fire has been a recurring and constant feature of the Australian landscape through millions of years of lightning strikes and tens of thousands of years of Indigenous burning practices by First Nations peoples. Their leadership and expertise is essential in effectively caring for the bush and its inhabitants in our fire-prone environment. We need to listen, collaborate and support opportunities for Indigenous-led fire programs as much as possible across Australia.

What inspired you to write Alight?

Fire is essential to the healthy function of our fire-prone ecosystems in Australia. Unfortunately, our exposure to fire is most often as a disaster with profound and traumatic impacts to the community and environment, such as Black Summer.

I wrote Alight to share with children and their grown ups the important and natural role that fire plays in the Australian bush. To help provide some balance and space for the role of fire in the bush and the benefits of healthy fire.

The right type of fire at the right time and place supports the bush and its inhabitants. Plants and animals in fire-prone ecosystems have evolved adaptations that help them survive fire or recover in the post-fire environment. In Alight we see some examples of this, such as when Wallum Banksia’s seeds are triggered to release from the heat of the fire and then germinate following rain.

There are many benefits of healthy fire, and I hope Alight inspires children, teachers and grown ups to learn and understand more about the important role of fire in the Australian bush.


What do you think parents and teachers will love about sharing this book with children?

I love to collect and share children’s literature and picture books with my own children, and I firmly believe in the value of beautiful and engaging environmental and science-based picture books for kids. Science and nature picture books offer beauty, inspiration and information. They allow us to tell true stories that share scientific concepts, celebrate the environment and connect us with nature.

When I read Alight to children I am constantly impressed at the thoughtful and insightful questions it inspires. The children care about what happens to the plants and animals we follow in the book. They can see the beauty in the bush and want to know why something dies or lives, what dangers our characters face after the fire, and how the fire helps plants and animals to grow.

My hope is that parents, carers and teachers will connect with the story of Alight, admire the beautiful illustrations, and engage with their children and young people to discuss the ideas, questions and concerns that Alight inspires.


Perfect for ages 6 to 9, Alight: A Story of Fire and Nature is available to purchase on our website and from all good bookstores. We have also produced free downloadable Teacher Notes to support the use of this book in the classroom.


Sam Lloyd smiling and leading against a chook shed. She is holding a white chicken.

Sam Lloyd, author of Alight. Photo: Little Family Photo Co.

Dr Sam Lloyd is a scientist, fire ecologist and writer with a passion for the Australian bush and children’s literature. Through storytelling, art and a love of books, Sam strives to engage children in the world of science and nature. Sam lives in Brisbane with her husband, children, dog and some chooks.



Sam Metcalfe in front of a bookshelf, smiling and holding a copy of 'Alight'.

Samantha Metcalfe, illustrator of Alight.





Samantha Metcalfe is a Natural History Illustrator who finds inspiration in the unique biodiversity of the Australian bush. Working primarily in colour pencil, her realistic and detailed illustrations often focus on capturing Australia’s native flora and fauna. Samantha has illustrated several children’s picture books including The Voyage of Whale and Calf, and she was also shortlisted for the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for New Illustrator.


Watch the Alight video trailer: